It's not just sets, anymore--for La Bohème I got to paint a prop. The character of Marcello is an artist, and works on a painting of the red sea. The set designer gave me a sketch of big red waves on an ocean with a woman's face in it. The canvas was small enough that I was able to work on it at home, up against the half-wall in the living room where we get pretty good light.
After getting this far I decided that it needed to be done with a palette knife. I've never done this before. I didn't even have a palette knife. I picked up a cheap plastic set.
I've discovered that I really enjoy palette knife painting. It's fast and bold, and makes fun textures. I was pretty happy with this, but Linda (the director) said that the face was too obvious, so I took it back home to tweak it a bit more.
In the opera lyrics, we're told that Marcello keeps trying to paint other things and then they turn into Musetta's face. Nobody told me this to begin with (I think I probably would have approached it a little differently), but it turned out all right. Linda was happy with it, anyway. It only has to look good from forty feet!
There was a lot of set painting to do, too. We're back in the rehearsal space at the Armory. It's gone through some cosmetic changes, but of all the spaces that I've worked in it's the most familiar.
Tracing out big sandstone blocks. I made a foam board template.
Anne Marie came with me one day, and I put her to work painting seam lines on wood paneling.
I got a plastic stencil blank and made myself a brick stencil. When I arrived at the Rialto for load-in and there wasn't anything ready for me to paint on stage yet, I spent a few hours painting bricks out in the lobby.
I will remember this as definitely the most hectic and exhausting set construction that I've been through. Tony and Rosy retired and bought a house in Mexico, so Tony's carpentry role was filled by somebody else (who was familiar with the process but hadn't worked in that specific capacity), who found himself rather over his head and then got sick. So there was a lot of scrambling and everybody jumping in to help out, and lots of long hours. This pic was taken on the day of dress rehearsal. Now, we've never been completely finished before dress rehearsal, but we've never been this far behind. It was crazy.
Kevin and Royce paint window mullions. Everyone was super helpful.
I added some smoke damage to the bricks above the fire place. That turned out really well. (I probably would have done more if I'd had time!) The set is reversible--the back side is one big long stretch of sandstone blocks, which I never did get a picture of, since it was always on the back side and the lighting was horrible, but that's what I spent the most time on. Lots of ladder work, at the end. On opening night I was at the theater for about eight hours, painting like crazy. And then I went home and crashed.
In the past I understand that the opera did run for two weekends, but since I've started it's always been just final dress rehearsal Wednesday, opening night Friday, and matinee Sunday. This year they decided to try doing two weekends again, so we had final dress Thursday, opening night Saturday, and then two more performances the following Friday and Sunday. And since Doug has evening class this quarter (again), I begged tickets for Friday instead of final dress. As it turned out, having a week to recover in between made a huge difference. I was not completely wiped out the next day. So it seems it's not the late night and the excitement and the Rialto's uncomfortable seats that are so exhausting, it's the week of painting before that. Whew!
I went with Anne Marie and Erica and we had a great time. None of us had ever seen La Bohème before. I've seen it described as one of the most beloved operas, which I didn't quite get--we found the plot a bit thin--but the music was sublime and the performers truly amazing.